From Awareness to Action

Carla McNeil

Help me to understand how we can expect classroom teachers to take action for students who are not achieving and possibly present with SLD’s if they don’t UNDERSTAND;

1. What they are faced with, 2. Have inappropriate resourcing, 3. No systems in place and, 4. Are accustomed to doing what they have always done.

Don’t get me wrong, I speak from experience when I say it is certainly no easy task leading through change. When we venture onto the pathway of changing our systems in education, we have a tendency to become defensive. Over the teacups we hear “Oh here we go again, we did this in the 70’s”. Does this indicate that we are sitting in the deficit thinking sandpit, needing to be lured with sufficient evidence to coax us out of here? This behaviour in my experience reflects not only a fixed mindset but more so an indication of a lack of AWARENESS, UNDERSTANDING, EMPATHY and knowledge of appropriate and evidenced-based ACTIONS.

In many cases classroom teachers, leaders and parents alike have a tendency unknowingly to jump from identifying a need (SLD) at the AWARENESS stage straight to ACTION — asking “what programme can we implement to fix this?”

The four steps below are fundamental to and appropriate for all stakeholders from school leaders, sencos, teachers, teacher aides and parents in working with students who require learning support. Developing understanding may look different for various stakeholders, however, in all cases in my experience it is KNOWLEDGE and system (or lack of) related. What don’t I know about this learner? What don’t I know about my practice in relation to how this learner presents? What is our school system for appropriate action and collaboration when awareness is raised?

Enter a solid system/process within a school. One which is not only owned but practiced by all stakeholders. At the understanding stage building knowledge of teachers through quality professional development in the area of specific learning differences is fundamental to both the much-needed change in culture in a school and also to educational success for all. Specialist educational assessments will also shed light for all stakeholders in the UNDERSTANDING corner. Once a parent or classroom teacher has awareness coupled with understanding, only then will they have true empathy with this learner, and only then can they be in a position to work with experts to determine the appropriate course of ACTION. It is not a matter of picking an ACTION (programme)off the shelf.

A true leader or pioneer will take people with them, they will shine the light ahead, raising awareness through advocacy, and by developing understanding through increased teacher knowledge. Enter Empathy, collaboration, respect and relationships and we now have not only a recipe but the ingredients for success in education and everyday life.

What does your process look like? What are your teachers shared understandings and how much knowledge do they have in this area? Are you aware of what interventions on your intervention menu are evidence-based and what is not, in terms of ACTION? Check out the Musec Briefings from Macquirie University to determine what is evidence based and what is not.

Be the change you want to see. Contact us to find out how we can assist you in developing your AWARENESS to ACTION cycle.

Carla is the Founder and Director of Learning MATTERS Ltd. Carla has been a successful school Principal, Mathematics Advisor and Classroom teacher.

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